Farming and life balance: fact or fiction

Amber Burke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Fond du Lac County dairy farmers, Janet Clark, left, Eldorado, and Chris Pollock, of Ripon, shared their perspectives on balancing the many obligations of business and family during a May 10, 2022, PDPW Dairy Signal webcast.

Farming is an extremely demanding and time-consuming job, which makes it challenging to maintain balance between a personal and professional life.

Two young  Wisconsin dairy farmers had the opportunity to share advice on balancing the many obligations of business and family during a recent Dairy Signal webinar hosted by Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

Janet Clark, of Eldorado, who farms with her husband and brother said, "I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I do feel like communication is key. The more you communicate with your family members and business partners, the more you can plan ahead and set yourself up for success."

Chris Pollack, a dairy producer from Ripon added, "Achieving a personal life balance along with a very busy farm work schedule is certainly challenging with a young family. I think asking for help when needed is extremely important."

"Planning and prioritizing what tasks are most critical is also helpful," Clark said. "We do a lot of business planning over the winter months, from setting goals to analyzing financial investments. However, things come up on a daily basis while farming, so I might just hop in the tractor with my brother or husband and get updates on what needs to get done that day."

Chris Pollock along with his wife, Kelly Pollack, says achieving a personal life balance along with a very busy farm work schedule is certainly challenging with a young family.

Pollock says sometimes its hard to plan very far in advance, as the agricultural industry changes so rapidly.

"Yet, planning in advance does help with time management and business growth," he said. "We should take advantage of the tools and technologies that are out there to helps us become more efficient."

Having a strong support system in place and knowing when to say no to additional commitments are also important to Pollack and Clark. They rely on family members to remind them if they are taking on too many projects outside of their daily responsibilities. Yet, networking and socialization remain a priority. Opportunities for church involvement, as well as agricultural organizations are great ways to communicate and learn from their peers.

Priorities on the farm can shift on a daily basis, but family always is the number one priority, Pollock said, adding that prioritizing time is crucial to maintaining those relationships.

"Sometimes I coordinate work activities into spending quality time with my kids or my spouse," Pollock said.

He also tries to plan lunch dates with his wife, as they have four children under the age of six, which makes scheduling evening activities more difficult.

Janet Clark, second from left, introduces her family during an event at their Eldorado dairy operation, Vision-Aire Farms. Joining her from left, her husband Travis Clark, brother David Grade and parents Sandy and Roger Grade.

All in all, Clark and Pollock both agree that farming is a huge time commitment. that requires non-stop availability and flexibility.

"There will always be chores to do," Clark said. It's important to not lose sight of what is important in your life and nourish our relationships with the people we care about."